Las Vegas continues to develop into a melting pot of outstanding ethnic cuisines, and one of the most prevalent is Japanese. Buoyed by the renowned Raku, most of this growth has taken place over the past decade, with restaurants springing up across the Valley offering much more than the ubiquitous sushi. We have Japanese curry, izakayas and wafuu pasta, and in Yuzu, we have our first kaiseki-oriented venue. And that’s good.
What exactly is kaiseki? If you’re a Hannibal fan, you’ll recognize it from Season 2 episode titles. Kaiseki is an ornate, seasonally driven and theatrical meal with progressive courses; it’s art of the edible kind with presentations too pretty to eat but too delicious not to. It’s more than a meal; it’s an experience. And for 16 years, it was the focus of Yuzu chef and owner Kaoru Azeuchi’s career.
When Azeuchi came to Vegas from Tokushima, Japan, in 2014, he hoped to open a kaiseki restaurant. But the chef was unsure how the local market would accept this unique and laborious method. Instead, he opened a more mainstream Japanese restaurant with an a la carte menu including staples like sushi, hot pots, tempura and noodles. After building a stable clientele, he began to focus on his kaiseki offerings in mid-2016, transforming Yuzu Japanese Kitchen into Yuzu Kaiseki with a complete rebranding.
Each kaiseki experience follows a progression that varies depending upon Azeuchi’s mood but typically includes 8-10 dishes for around $50. My visits each began with an appetizer course containing bites both approachable (poached egg with caviar) and challenging, like cod milt (go ahead and Google that one) and sweet shrimp with crab innards. A precursor of things to come, the appetizers showcase Azeuchi’s versatility and the breadth of ingredients at his disposal.
You’re likely to get mukozuke (sashimi) and/or sushi courses, and the shiizakana (hot pot) prepared on your table is a treat, only increasing anticipation as the dish cooks in front of you. Yakimono (grilled) courses have been particularly memorable; recently, smoky saikyo miso-marinated miyazaki Wagyu beef was an unctuous epiphany, while seafood served swimming in yuzu miso inside the hollowed-out citrus fruit delivered an acidic complement to the meat. A seafood-centric su-zakana (vinegar dish) is typically included, like a radish-wrapped yellowtail, while the traditional tome-wan (miso and rice soup) toward the conclusion of the meal is intended to aid digestion of this multicourse extravaganza.
Plan on calling Yuzu at least three days prior to your visit to reserve the kaiseki, as Azeuchi requires special sourcing and significant preparation time. It’s well worth the effort. Simply put, Yuzu is one of the most unique meals available in Las Vegas.
Yuzu Kaiseki 1310 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd., 702-778-8889. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m.